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Joyce’s career night leads Irish over Friars

Joe Hettler | Monday, February 16, 2004

After 19 minutes and 58 seconds of frowning, scowling and looking completely frustrated, Irish coach Muffet McGraw finally smiled. All it took was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.Jeneka Joyce drained four 3-pointers – the last one as the first half buzzer sounded – and scored all of her career-high 14 points in the first 20 minutes to spark Notre Dame over Providence 81-51 Saturday night at the Joyce Center.Joyce swished the last-second 3-pointer from about 22 feet, spun herself around with her hands in the air after it went in and raced to the locker room. The team followed, including an outwardly excited McGraw.”Jeneka was the difference, especially in the first half,” McGraw said. “She had the knockout punch at the end of the half to hit that 3-pointer. That was really great to see her come in and have a great game.”Joyce said she was just doing her job.”Whenever I have an opportunity to play and get in, I take my shots when they’re open,” Joyce said. “That’s my job. I’m just filling my role.”The Irish had five players score in double figures for the first time since February of 2003. Forward Jacqueline Batteast recorded her eighth double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while Joyce (14), Courtney LaVere (12) Teresa Borton (11) and Megan Duffy (11) all scored in double figures.Notre Dame (15-8, 8-3) outrebounded Providence (4-18, 0-11) 46-28 and shot 54.1 percent from the field for the game.”I thought we played well offensively. That was really our emphasis tonight,” McGraw said. “We really wanted to score and get out and run in transition.”Notre Dame passed the ball well in the paint and created many easy scoring opportunities. Batteast, Borton and LaVere combined to shoot 16-of-25.Playing in their first game in a week, the Irish looked sloppy for some of the first half. After jumping out to a 10-3 lead over the undersized Friars, Notre Dame held just a 16-15 advantage with 7:13 remaining. But Joyce gave Notre Dame a cushion by hitting all five of her shots in the final seven minutes of the half. By the time intermission came, Providence saw a one-point deficit turn into a nearly insurmountable 14-point discrepancy.”I really think that 3-pointer that she hit at the end of the half really demoralized Providence,” McGraw said. “…We really fell apart there [for a while in the first half]. I thought we lost our intensity at both ends of the floor. Then [Joyce] came in and gave us a little spark and we just fed off of that.”The Irish played better in the second half, shooting over 64 percent from the field, as they led by as many as 32 at one point. McGraw used her entire bench as every player except Anne Weese logged at least 10 minutes.”Overall I thought just about everybody played well,” McGraw said. Notre Dame is now just a half-game behind West Virginia in the Big East standings. The Mountaineers are 9-3, while the Irish are 8-3. West Virginia beat Notre Dame earlier this season, giving the Mountaineers the tiebreaker. Connecticut is 10-1 and in first place in the conference.Notre Dame travels to New York Tuesday to play St. John’s.